Monday, 24 April 2017

March For Science, Cassini-Huygen mission ending and SotM Peggy Whitson with @smrolfe

Science Feature 24-04-2017

March for Science 
Global event, over 600 cities around the world across 6 continents, marched with the original march that took place in Washington DC. In the UK, marches were held in Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Norwich.

The marchers were scientists and non-scientists alike, marched for "robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest".

For the scientists there we were encouraged to go out and tell people that we attended the march, our experience of it and why we did it and show that we are a diverse group, that we are not all old white men with crazy hair.

Many were holding placards suggesting they should be writing papers or their theses and I saw a tweet that said that it was a struggle to get three co-authors together in a room, so to see thousands of scientists around the world come out and march must mean it is important.

People who were there or are listening now that wouldn’t consider themselves as professional scientists, know that the support and interest that you show for science is extremely important to professional scientists. Please continue to follow science news and take the time to check sources of articles – where was the study conducted and by whom, how many repeats or participants were there in the study, has it been repeated by other institutions elsewhere to verify the results? By conducting this next level of research, we can help avoid sensationalist headlines and so forth from gaining traction. 

Check out the events of the day and what you can do to continue to support by going to the website or searching the hashtags #marchforscience #sciencemarch


Cassini-Huygens mission
The spacecraft has been studying Saturn for 13 years, following a seven year journey to the planet (launched 1997), when its nominal mission was four years.

The craft has begun its final orbits of Saturn. It is being manoeuvred into a final dive into the atmosphere of Saturn, as the Galileo spacecraft was at Jupiter because it is too much of planetary protection issue to leave an unresponsive, fuel-depleted craft to wander the Saturnian system unchecked because of the very real possibility of life on the moons.

It will plunge into the atmosphere on 15 September this year, but before this it will complete several orbits where it passes through the ring system to discover more about them. It will first pass through the rings on Wednesday (26 April) at 9 am. The data it collects will help estimate the mass of the rings, in turn telling us about their approximate age.

Discoveries made by the Cassini probe include:
  • The first probe to land on the surface of an outer solar system body, Huygens landed on Titan in 2005, during decent saw rivers and lakes of hydrocarbons. Later it was discovered that it rains methane there.
  • Found plumes of material spouting from Enceladus along the surface “Tiger Stripes”, recently found to have a sub-surface ocean and evidence of hydrothermal vents. Also, evidence of organic particles, which could be precursors to life, were detected in the plume.
  • A greater understanding of Saturn’s cloud system by observing storms. The largest temperature increase was seen and molecules previously never detected were seen.

Previous to the Cassini-Huygens mission, only brief encounters with the planet had occurred, by way of fly-bys by Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Everything we know about the planet, its moons and rings comes from this amazing mission.

There is so much more information and discoveries than I could possibly cover in a 5 minute piece so please visit: for more details and to follow the final months of the mission.


Scientist of the Month
Peggy Whitson

Peggy Whitson.jpgHas set a new record for the longest U.S. Astronaut in space, 534 days, 2 hours and 49 mins, cumulative. She is on the space station for the next 5 months, so she will be adding to this to a total of 650 days! She has a while to go before she breaks the record for longest ever cumulative time spent in space, which is 879 days.

She is a biochemist, was the first woman to command the ISS and first to command it twice. She is also the female with the most spacewalks. She was a project scientist on the Shuttle-Mir program. You can send her a message celebrating her record with the hashtag #CongratsPeggy.

Night Sky This Month
For early risers, Mercury is at greatest elongation on 17 May, look for the planet in the Eastern sky just before sunrise at 5:05 am.

Venus is the morning star at the moment. Jupiter is available for viewing from sunset into the early morning with Saturn rising around midnight.

10 May is the full Moon.


No comments:

Post a Comment